Posts Tagged ‘Krautrock’

Scattered Purgatory

For a band from Taiwan, Scattered Purgatory owe an awful huge debt to Germany. Their latest, Sua-Hiam-Zun, is forged from the same clouded waters that sprang Popul Vuh, Ash Ra Temple and Cluster. The album works with atmosphere as its medium, building tension through a massive cavern of sound that feels as if its sprung up slowly on all sides. The listener is trapped in glacial ice and moved with an inching dread towards fates unknown. The duo seems to merely take the German Progressives as a jump off, however, working their systems into festering, humming dystopian dreamscapes that remain anxious despite limited moving parts.

Synths growl like the bellows of huge furnaces, hot and dry with the arid stink of smelted metal. Those remain the bedrock of Sua-Hiam-Zun, but are often shrouded in a layer of fog that seems unbreakable, as if it stretches clear to the highest reaches of the album’s choked atmosphere. The real movement is contained to clattering and clanging percussive notes that seem to act as the inhabitants of Scattered Purgatory’s universe. Needless to say, that universe has no apparent love for itself – a negative space that’s full of life trapped under glass.

Scattered Purgatory takes aim at both doom and drone on this album and wind up finding the best of both. The widescreen drones, of course, do nothing to relax the mind as the band continues to punch the anxiety centers of our brains at each leaden moment, but the cinematic grandeur also comes with a feeling of strange imprisonment that’s harder and harder to resist as the album progresses. We see the end coming and are almost powerless to stop it, dragged down by dread and fear and perhaps hopelessness, but in its absolute domination of the horizon, the end seems almost breathtaking to behold through Scattered Purgatory’s eyes.




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Snapped Ankles

OK, lets just start it out by saying that the “hold a mirror up to us,” Shakespeare-embroiled marketing around this album is a bit heavy handed. Snapped ankles aren’t going to shift your perception on life and bring out the Sun King in all of us. However the album is cherry picking from a great gob of rhythmic-forward electronic, dance and pop music from the last forty-odd years and doing a lot of it quite well. Frog-hopping time and genres from Gary Numan-robopop though Clinic’s reinterpretation of German Progressive ideals then spinning ’round and incorporating a good deal of the bombast that fueled The Chemical Brothers’ vocal-heavy entries – the record is seemingly stuffed but cribbing from a lot of common elements. What those artists sliced like sonic cutlets from the ’70s (or in Numan’s case, just invented) Snapped Ankles rake into the pot for a full press ante on wonky lock-step pop.

So, yeah while they aren’t the first to plow the lane, they’re still widening it just fine. The back to back double kick of “I Want My Minutes Back” and “Jonny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin” are the crest of the album, rolling all their appropriations together, and as I’ve previously mentioned, emulating the aforementioned Numan better than many who’ve knelt at the altar. The rest of the record doesn’t shake out too shabby either. The band is working well in the redline, pushing ecstatic pop that’s looking to jump out of the skin and live in the electrons bouncing untethered in the air around us all. They know how to work the squelch into a hook and wrangle atmospheres over a motorik grind. So, yes while I’m going to call the band out on whatever’s happening in this picture, the record stacks up just fine for all your high-volume hi-jinks needs.




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Beaches

Aussie psych unit Beaches has built a carefully paced career, releasing just three albums since 2007. Doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but in an album a year environment (or five a year like some of their countrymen), the editing process doesn’t always come so naturally these days. Second of Spring plays to their strengths – atmosphere and hypnotic chug lead the way. They drop a dose of shoegaze, Krautrock, and psych in the blender then whip to a froth. The resulting double album is a hazy mountain of sound that proves to push the band to new heights.

Perhaps most refreshing is that, for a band that’s somewhat rooted in pop, this isn’t just an overstuffed collection of tracks that found their way floating to the top of the pile. They construct an arc of tonality that pushes past hooks and into using the album as environment, a larger canvass to work out their sonic swirl. They swerve through eddies of echo, with vocals so lost in the surrounding swamp they barely register. The next minute they kick up the rhythms to a motorik grind that practically pushes the angles into neon relief. Then they smack down the obfuscation altogether for a crush of pop, that’s certainly not pristine, but shining of its own accord.

The duality of shrouded vs. palpable, gauzy vs. catchy is what drives the album into psych-pop’s pantheon, marking this as the band’s best. Its no slight listen and that makes it worth going back to for repeated examinations of the elaborate folds the band pulls off here. Beaches have spent time honing their craft and it shows on Second Of Spring. If you’re looking for a breezy run, maybe hit up another Beach themed outfit, this one’s gonna make you take the climb to find the perfect wave.




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Astral TV

Formed by Causa Sui synth player Rasmus Rasmussen alongside Keith Canisius, Astral TV picks up the Kosmiche baton from so many other tape trade analog wizards operating in the wake of Onehotrix and Emeralds. While the heyday of instrumental synth’s resurgence may be in flux, there’s still room at the table for those that are doing it with a deft hand on the knobs. Astral TV eschews the Goblin and Morricone tropes of the genre, going in for true German progressive float that comes straight out of the Göttsching school of meditative psychedelics.

The album has a tender arc, reigning in light-soaked burbles of sound that push the sensory deprivation vibes with euphoric results. On tracks like the sublime “Sun Flares” the duo rides the open consciousness fader to the top, rippling with a soft ecstasy that’s buoyed by arepgiated synths and glowing lines of honey-dipped guitar. They cross into some pastoral-psych / ’70s synth hybrids that skirt towards territory that Belbury Poly or The Advisory Circle might rightly feel comfortable in and it’s not a stretch to imagine Astral TV sharing a stage with either.

For minimal synth there’s always the danger to get sucked too hard into the New Age filter at the end of the pool, at least for me. There’s a huge audience for that and if you’re vibing on Vaporwave and loving it, more power to you. For my money though, the brand of Kosmiche that Astral TV has inhabited winds up with more meat on its bones and a longer lasting effect on the blissful comedown they’re searching for.

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Wet Hair

If it feels like a stretch since Wet Hair turned up here, or anywhere in fact, that’s because the band hasn’t released a record since 2012’s Spill Into Atmosphere. At the time they’d shucked a great deal of their noise cloud and begun polishing their lo-fi pop into something a bit more grand. Before they’d shared groove space with Merchandise, they were everywhere in the small cadre of noise-rock safe harbors – from Shawn Reed’s own Night People to Not Not Fun, De Stijl, and Bathetic. Now they land their post-breakup LP on Wharf Cat and pull back the curtain on what could have been if the band hadn’t faded into the horizon.

The Floating World is definitely the band’s most accessible take to date, besting even their previous two nudges towards a sparkling Krautrock-laden pop. Still couched in a cloud of haze, though not so thick that the edges become indiscernible, the record is glowing with the same electricity that’s always pushed Wet Hair. The percussion tumbles like violent waters below bright, beckoning synths but while that Krautrock tag is certainly still applicable, this is a pop record first and foremost. The best contemporary comparison would be the later work of Cloudland Canyon, who found themselves traversing similar territory and pulling it off with a deft hand. Ultimately the record is a great nugget of noise-pop that’s shelved on the ‘coulda-been, shoulda-been’ pile of bands that get overlooked too often amid changing tastes. Still, there’s no reason not to dip into this gem for a spin or six.




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Beaches – “Void”

Aussie psych stormers Beaches are back after what feels like an almost unbearable hiatus (last album was 2013). Though to be fair, the ladies that make up the group have rather a lot going on, with members sharing duties in Love of Diagrams, Scott and Charlene’s Wedding and Panel of Judges among others. The group pushes the pedal down even harder on their motorik psych sound, fizzing like the ragged spirits of Spacemen 3, Neu!, Loop and Popul Vuh had all infected them simultaneously and were fighting for space. “Void” is shrouded in cavernous echo (just like I like it) and pulsating with a rhythm that all but glows. They drop in a touch of space-laced synth to keep it interesting and with that, anticipations are high for this double LP monster to drop later in the fall. Chapter Music is pushing the gems out this year, and this chalks another one up on the board.




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Jane Weaver

Jane Weaver found herself folded into the cosmic plane on previous album Silver Globe. Channeling a refined mash of Stereolab, Jodorowsky, Can and Broadcast, the album pushed Weaver further into a slick-skinned spaciness that’s the very image of ultra-modern trappings. She continues the journey through Krautrock/Kosmiche/Lounge/Experimental headspace to refine the sound into something of a chic psychedelic alternate universe where Wegner’s the standard bearer of public style and the hi-fi has won out handily over the television as the centerpiece of the American homestead.

Though, that’s not to make Weaver sound like she’s merely soundtracking the snooty coffee bar that pushed its way into the neighborhood, there’s plenty of humanity bubbling underneath that well coifed exterior. The beats tap along to a motorik heart, but over the top Weaver is swooning with a natural demeanor that puts her ultra-modern framework on a sweeping vista of verdant forest views. The balance between futurist and naturalist feels at the crux of Modern Kosmology. Weaver is the tear rolling down artificially intelligent cheeks, blushing at the feelings welled up by the modern art in your foyer.

Modern Kosmology is an album that’s comfortable with its niche, well-researched and soldering the markers of genre together into a clockwork hum of perfect unity. This is new age psych for those who have already transcended the physical form and are finally finding their muse. It’s a ripple that reminds one not to trust the eyes too much, instead it communicates on a wavelength that’s pulsing with a strange humanity, earthen and antiseptic all at once. If an album were to have tasting notes then Modern Kosmology seems wrought with the ghosts of moss, leather, Formica and Ozone. Dip in accordingly.




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Flowers Must Die

UK psych outpost Rocket Recordings roster is full to brimming with Marshall-stacked amp toasters, but Swedish six-piece Flowers Must Die vary the formula by adding a touch of deep bench influences to their sound. Not totally divorced from fellow Swedes Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation, who bend pop instincts through the prism of Krautrock and a fog of psych, Flowers Must Die are cherry picking bits of bottom-down disco dipped in space-rock swirls for a record that’s decked out in psych’s finery but feeling frisky with the notion of pop. The band has a habit of dipping the ends in free jazz squall and haunting Eastern drones as well and blending the styles subtly rather than throwing wholesale styles into a hodgepodge pot.

The extra hands make it possible to flesh the sound out with vintage keys, flourishes of flute and a clattered clutch of percussion. The hard to pin down styles mesh together nicely, not unlike some of the more outre soundtrack work of the ’70s. “Why?” seems like it might hold sway among some of the pieces from The Holy Mountain, with its ecstatic moans and chugging percussion. The band flips from Ash Ra Temple to Lindstrøm and finds space for both to butt against the ozone fry of dry ice riffs that feel like a Logan’s run dreamscape. Its a banner year for the psychedelic folds and Flowers Must Die are pushing things out of heavy riffs and into a heady haze that’s far more than the sum of its parts.

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Moon Duo

As the sequel, or rather, better half to their Occult Architecture Vol.1 from earlier this year, Vol. 2 acts as the softer side of the band’s motorik psych-punk universe. Where the first volume was steeped in anxiety, tension and darkness; the second volume is by turns blissful, celebratory even. Its still chugging along with a chainsaw grind and lysergic stabs of guitar via Ripley Johnson, but now the tone is relaxed and surprisingly languid. The albums form a duality or a complete picture, but taken on its own merits, Vol. 2 is still pushing into Moon Duo’s best work.

There are strums, I think perhaps a first for Moon Duo, or even Wooden Shjips’ catalog. There are genuine moments of resplendence, flipping the band’s Kosmiche switch from throb to fizz. The pair submerge into a milky bath of sound that’s pulsating with light and love and all the Springtime green feelings that may have eluded their grasp in the pursuit of Krautrock edge in the past. Instead, this is pure dreampop, a silken submergence into ionic bliss that can’t hold back its own giddiness. Sanae Yamada’s synths emerge as a key component here, floating in waves of magenta majesty primed to induce shudders in the listener. As part of the band’s Yin and Yang concept, this fills the bill nicely, but even left to its own devices, it’ll sate your hunger for higher consciousness grind for months to come.




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Monopol – Monopol

Original copies of Monopol’s sole album will set you back a piece, but thankfully Medical is here to get you in on the cheap. The German band’s 1982 LP was steeped in a collision of Krautrock propulsion and synth textures that speak to a love of Kraftwerk, Cluster and Klaus Schulze, cementing a crystallization of German progressive influences gone pop. They also dig into the same mechanical menagerie of sounds that popped up in Lunapark and The Units, echoing their robotik fun park vibes, tough it’s less likely that those seeped into Monopol’s sound so much as came up concurrently from the same wellsprings. The band was purely a studio concoction, never playing live gigs, save for a few television performances around the album’s release, but they used the studio to its fullest extent as a laboratory for synth.

As is all too common, this would end up being the band’s only outing due to a rift and breakup shortly after its release. While the members didn’t go on to contribute to other musical projects, they stayed on in the music industry in other capacities. The record is a playgound of textures and remains a pretty admirable showcase for the state of electronic music at the time of its release. The band seemed to have a collection of every synth available, pushing them to work to their capacity. It winds up more than just a historical oddity though, as the songs have a beating heart that will capture the imagination of Krautrock fans and early dance music enthusiasts alike. Medical has gussied up the reissue in a nice package and pressed down to 180. Not too shabby.



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